Pass a Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights in Indiana
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When I was 18 I was raped by a Notre Dame student while his friends photographed. I was hospitalized for my injuries at a facility that did not have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners on staff. I was told that I would have to pay thousands of dollars for a rape kit, which I simply could not afford. I did not know that this was a violation of Indiana law. The untrained nurses told me that I wasn’t “really assaulted”, despite treating and documenting my open cuts and tissue damage.
My hospital experience was as horrific as the assault itself. In the following months and years, I found myself dwelling just as much on the callousness of the nurses and the lost opportunity of my rape kit as I did on the assault itself. I came to understand that this is what it feels like to have your rights denied. Injustice is not just bad rules, it is a collection of deeply painful lived experiences.
I still struggle daily with what happened to me, and I am frustrated by my inability to express myself in ways that are new or compelling enough to help others understand. In my victim impact statement I even wrote, “I am angry and in pain and so, so tired. I apologize for the bluntness of my words, but I don’t know how to make myself any clearer.” I have only found solace in community with other survivors and those willing to help our efforts to improve institutionalized responses to sexual violence.
I am very passionate about my work, but I’m also angry that I have to do it. I mourn for the interests I had prior to being raped, which receive less time and attention now that I have devoted my career path to prevention and response efforts. The trauma of a rape is not isolated to its direct aftermath, but also in the tragedy of every subsequent hour lost. Time that I spent parsing through the particularities of FERPA with Notre Dame’s General Counsel could have been spent reading, writing, or laughing with friends.
I continue to fight because I can’t abandon these problems now that I know they are there. And I know that I am not alone in this.
I'm calling on Indiana to pass a Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights that will guarantee comprehensive, common sense civil rights for survivors:
Rise’s Five Key Civil Rights:
1. The right to not have your rape kit destroyed before either 20 years or the statute of limitations has passed (whichever is longer).
2. The right to be notified of your civil rights related to a sexual assault.
3. The right to not be charged for your own rape kit examination.
4. The right to access your own medical record related to a rape kit examination.
5. The right to a copy of your own police report.
Over forty states have backlogs for untested kits. Some states do not cover the full medical expenses of a kit, leaving survivors to pay their own way towards justice. Most states destroy rape kits before the statute of limitations for the crime has passed. The lack of these rights has inspired us to act.
This is a crisis for 25 million survivors across America, and it's time for our legislators to do something about it.
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